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Six finalists announced for BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year 2015

Wed 02 Sep 2015
By Premier Journalist

Songs of Praise celebrates the soul-stirring sound of Gospel music, as six of the country’s best amateur choirs perform at the Hackney Empire in their quest to be the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year.

This year’s competition has attracted more entries than ever before, and the standard of singing has reached new heights. The competition will feature in two special editions of the programme broadcast on BBC One on Sunday 30 August and Sunday 6 September.

Dave Stanford, Executive Producer, Songs of Praise says: “BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year competition is now in its third year and it continues to grow in popularity. This year’s event comes from Hackney Empire and is very exciting as six incredible choirs compete for the coveted title. It is apparent from all those involved how much Gospel music can really enhance people’s lives. From leafy Surrey to inner-city Birmingham, the music’s infectious and inspirational qualities are abundantly evident. Although all those involved are amateurs, I think the audience will be astounded by the brilliance of all their performances.”

David Grant hosts the programmes along with co-presenter Connie Fisher, who captures the reactions from the choirs backstage. The six choirs, who’ve made it through to the finals, sing with all their heart and soul to an enthusiastic audience in an attempt to impress the three judges. With the difficult decision of picking a winner are: Olivier Award winning West End star Sharon D. Clarke; TV presenter and vocal coach Carrie Grant; and Gospel singer-songwriter Muyiwa Olarewaju.

The choirs each perform twice before the judges decide which choir will lift the trophy and become the Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of 2015.

Bringing the glorious sound of Gospel to our screens are six choirs from around the country:

The Godalming Community Gospel Choir, from Surrey, was established just four years ago by Emma Sue Prince, when she moved from London. It now has 100 members and a waiting list of people wishing to join. Thirty-one singers take part in competition and the choir director is Hermione Thomas. They perform Go Tell It On The Mountain and Don’t Cry.

Get Gospel is based in London and is the smallest choir in the competition with just six singers. They are led by Jules Rendell and rehearse in her flat in south London. They perform a medley of three classic hymns/spirituals, Jesus Loves Me/What a Friend We Have In Jesus/Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and a worship song by Hillsong, Oceans.

The BIG Sing: Gospel Voices are also from London and led by choir director Jon Rattenbury. They perform In God’s Own Time and I’ve Found The Answer. The choir is made up of ages from 23-60 and nationalities from around the world. They have grown from eight members three years ago, to now a 30-strong choir of singers who want to explore singing that little bit further.

The Reading Community Gospel Choir is led by Choir Director Colin Anderson. They perform Anthem Of Praise and This Little Light Of Mine. The choir formed in 2007 on the back of a community project for Black History Month. The sound, energy and passion that came from this workshop lit a spark which then went on to form The Reading Community Gospel Choir, which is a mix of ages, abilities, ethnic backgrounds and cultures.

The Birmingham Community Gospel Choir were finalists three years ago, when the competition was staged at Birmingham Town Hall. Maxine Brooks, the musical director, founded the choir in 2005, so this is their tenth anniversary year. They perform Now Behold The Lamb and Soon And Very Soon.

The Emmanu’-EL Apostolic Gospel Academy is from Leicester. They’re a church-based choir who rehearse at De Montfort University, and include some students among their members. They perform Emlanjeni in the Zulu language, which is based on Psalm 137 (‘By the rivers of Babylon……), and probably the best-known gospel song of all, O Happy Day.

If you miss a moment there’s an opportunity to listen to the performances again on the website www.bbc.co.uk/songs of praise and watch the programmes again on the BBC iPlayer.

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